City Regions

RTPI Cymru Wales Planning Conference 2015
Seminar 2: City Regions: A Changing Context in a Changing World. Adrian Healy and Gillian
Bristow, Cardiff University
This summary of the key points from the breakout seminar held at the Wales Planning Conference
2015 has been compiled by students at Cardiff University.
Defining the City Region
Accepts that cities and their hinterlands are closely entwined and that mutual benefits can
be achieved by close co-operated and the creation of linkages.
Yet, the poorly-defined and varied role of city-regions globally means that their
responsibilities and function is largely context specific
Received widespread policy focus within the UK, but the term is better understood in
Continental Europe.
Interest driven by an increased interest in competitiveness and ranking and realisation of the
potential benefits of cross-boundary communication has led to the city region to become a
fashionable term for academics and policy makers.
The Benefits of the City Region
1. Critical mass agglomeration create critical mass of labour, firms and universities, thus
attracting investment
2. Economies of scale efficiency savings created through economies of scale as possess
greater bargaining power
3. Politically popular can cause duplication of services, potentially allowing government to
cut services
4. Branding Allows for the creation of a marketable ‘brand’ to attract investment
City Regions in Wales
Whilst the Wales Spatial Plan hints at the creation of ‘more-than local level’ of planning policy, the
Haywood Report sets out how two potential city-regions could be set up in Wales which have now
been assessed by task and finish groups. Details of the two regions are set out below:
Swansea Bay City Region
Economic Regeneration
Powering the Welsh
Economy (Cardiff)
% of Welsh
Core Concept
“A new approach to economic regeneration”. Focus
on efficiency, integrated planning and investment
“The opportunity for improved regional alignment and
collaboration around” connectivity, skills, identity,
innovation and growth
As highlighted above, city-regions across the globe have a varied range of powers but potential
powers for Welsh city regions could centre on transport and strategic planning, economic
development, housing markets, waste, tourism, skills, health and coastal management. A pragmatic
approach to their responsibilities is needed, defined by the role they are expected to play.
Governing and Funding a City Region
Governance ranges from formal administrations and boards headed by elected mayors,
through to voluntaristic relationships been co-operating local government organisations
Governance structure needs to be shaped by the aim and function of the city region
Funding needs to be well thought out and could through city deals or specific project
funding. At risk from public fiancé sector squeezing.
City-regions can be seen as a policy maker fashion and thus a key reason for their failure is
lack of commitment to them following political and electoral change.
Often city-regions are let down by disputes within the governance structure, and thus city
regions should bring together a wide range of stakeholders in a meaningful network of
Often due to:
Political change
Lack of financial commitment
Poorly selected geographical area
Lack of clarity in the definition of the city region’s function
Poor collaboration between stakeholders
Implications for Planning
Potential for the creation of a strategic planning authority dealing with housing, gypsy sites, housing
markets and the economy.
Connectivity City region could have a huge say in the south-east Wales Metro system, the
development of Cardiff’s airport and rail connections
Innovation Potential to create and research campuses which will exploit research capacity and
take advantage of digitalization
Skills Can be used as a tool to retain graduates through the creation of a city-region lifestyle
Fundamentally, the city region is an emerging idea and as such its role, structure and organization is
largely undefined. What appears is essential is that the purpose of the city region is established
initially, and its powers are set out to achieve its purpose. Planning can form part of these functions,
but will inevitably be impacted through the commonly emerging themes of transport, housing and
economic development.
Summary written by Nick Heard (Cardiff University)